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2010 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On April 13, 2010 @ 12:00 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Series Preview | Comments Disabled

Coverage of the Angels this past offseason focused on the fact that, a year after they let Francisco Rodriguez depart as a free agent, four more of their key players were eligible to do the same. It was generally believed that the Angels had to resign at least two of them to maintain their hold on the American League West, but after quickly re-upping Bobby Abreu for two years at an annual salary of $9 million, the Angels watched as Chone Figgins, John Lackey, and Vladimir Guerrero, not to mention valuable veteran set-up lefty Darren Oliver, all signed elsewhere.

Here’s the thing. I still think the Angels are going to repeat as division champions this year. For one thing, though they didn’t resign Guerrero, they did sign Hideki Matsui for a mere $6 million, and to my eyes, that’s an upgrade. Matsui’s actually eight months older than Guerrero, and both have a lot of mileage on their bodies and have struggled with injuries in recent years, but Guerrero, who signed for $6.5 million plus an option with division rival Texas, just looked used-up last year, playing in just 100 games and failing to reach 20 homers or walks. After leading the league in intentional walks in each of the previous four years, Guerrero was passed intentionally just three times in 2009, damning evidence that the Impaler’s blade has dulled significantly.

Matsui, meanwhile, arrives in L.A. coming off one of his best seasons. Both seem capable of replicating Matsui’s career line of .292/.370/.483 if healthy, but I think Guerrero will need the help of his new park to get there, while Matsui can do it on his own. The catch is that Mike Scioscia has already given Matsui a start in left field. If he continues to do that every so often, the chances of Matsui staying healthy are significantly reduced (not to mention the effect of his two bad knees on the Angels’ defense).

As for Lackey, the Angels replaced him last July when they acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays for three prospects including Sean Rodriguez. Kazmir is ably filling Lackey’s shoes by starting the season on the disabled list, which Lackey did each of the last two seasons. When he returns, Kazmir will give the Halos a young, hard-throwing lefty to complete a five-deep rotation that also includes Jered Weaver, lefty Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and free agent addition Joel Pineiro, the last of whom is the only of the five Angels starters to have reached his thirties. None of those guys is an ace, but Weaver and Kazmir can be number-twos, Saunders and the groundballing Pineiro slot in well at three and four, and the erratic Santana has front-end potential as evidenced by his strong 2008 campaign which earned him his first All-Star selection and even a few Cy Young votes. Hidden in Santana’s 2009 numbers is the 3.18 ERA he posted over his last 11 starts, much in the same way that Kazmir’s unimpressive 2009 figures mask a strong second half in which he posted a 3.27 ERA and a 1.73 mark after becoming an Angel.

The depth of that rotation is a large part of the reason that I believe the Angels are going to repeat, but their lineup is still solid as well. Only the Yankees scored more runs than the Angels in 2009, and with Matsui replacing Guerrero, the only real change is the loss of Figgins. It remains to be seen if Erick Aybar will be an out machine while taking Figgins’ place atop the order, but things are solid behind him, with Abreu getting on base in the two-hole and Torii Hunter, Matsui, and Kendry Morales lining up to drive him in. If Aybar can hit for enough average to prop up his OBP, and Brandon Wood, who replaces Figgins at third base and opens the season batting eighth, can deliver on his considerable power potential (the 25-year-old slugged .541 in the minors and averaged just shy of 29 homers a year over his last five minor league seasons), the Angels should actually be better without Figgins than they were with him. Those are big “if”s, of course, but the Angels have room for error given their production last year.

That’s another big part of the reason that I like the Angels to repeat as AL West Champions. Last year, they won the division by ten games over the Rangers and 12 games over what I believe was an over-achieving Mariners team (one that allowed the fewest runs in the league but was still outscored on the season). Despite all of the noise they made in the offseason, I don’t believe that the Mariners are meaningfully better, and I have my doubts about the Rangers as well (the Yankees open a series against Texas on Friday, so I’ll save my thoughts on them for then). Even if one or both of those teams did manage to improve by a couple of games and the Angels are a couple of games worse, the Angels still come out on top. Worried about the fact that the Angels beat their Pythagorean record by five games last year? Well the Rangers beat theirs by two and the Mariners beat theirs by ten. Using the Pythagorean standings, the Angels still won the AL West by eight games last year. I just don’t think any of the other three teams can close that gap.

The 2010 Angels are not a 97-win team headed for the American League Championship Series, but to my eyes they’re clearly the best of an underwhelming lot in their undersized division. They’re unspectacular, but they’re solid throughout. Their bullpen should benefit from the return of veteran set-up ace Scot Shields, who missed most of 2009 due to knee surgery, and though they lack major stars, both their rotation and lineup are deep (on days that Mike Napoli catches, the Angels have seven hitters capable of exceeding 20 home runs in a season and a different group of seven that had on-base percentages of .350 or above in 2009). These aren’t the Angels that gave the Yankees fits in the just-completed decade. This is a slower, more conventional team, but it’s still a good one.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2009 Record: 97-65 (.599)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 92-70 (.568)

Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Tony Reagins

Home Ballpark: Angel Stadium

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-104, LH HR-94
RH Avg-102, RH HR-107

Who’s Replacing Whom:

  • Hideki Matsui replaces Vladimir Guerrero
  • Brandon Wood inherits Chone Figgins’ playing time
  • Terry Evans inherits Gary Matthews Jr.’s playing time
  • Scott Kazmir replaces John Lackey
  • Joel Pineiro replaces the starts of Sean O’Sullivan (minors), Shane Loux, Trevor Bell (minors), Dustin Moseley, and others including Matt Palmer, who is currently filling in for Kazmir (DL)
  • Scot Shields reclaims Darren Oliver’s innings
  • Fernando Rodney replaces Jose Arredondo
  • Brian Stokes replaces Justin Speier
  • Bobby Cassevah replaces Robb Quinlan

25-man roster:

1B – Kendry Morales (S)
2B – Howie Kendrick (S)
SS – Erick Aybar (S)
3B – Brandon Wood (R)
C – Jeff Mathis (R)
RF – Bobby Abreu (L)
CF – Torii Hunter (R)
LF – Juan Rivera (R)
DH – Hideki Matsui (L)

Bench:

R – Mike Napoli (C)
S – Maicer Izturis (IF)
R – Terry Evans (OF)
R – Bobby Wilson (C)

Rotation:

R – Jered Weaver
L – Joe Saunders
R – Ervin Santana
R – Joel Pineiro
R – Matt Palmer

Bullpen:

L – Brian Fuentes
R – Scot Shields
R – Fernando Rodney
R – Kevin Jepsen
R – Jason Bulger
R – Brian Stokes
R – Bobby Cassevah

Lineup:

S – Erick Aybar (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Torii Hunter (CF)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
S – Kendry Morales (1B)
R – Juan Rivera (LF)
R – Howie Kendrick (2B)
R – Brandon Wood (3B)
R – Jeff Mathis (C)

15-day DL:

LHP – Scott Kazmir (right hamstring)
RHP – Anthony Ortega (triceps tendonitis)
OF – Reggie Willits (right hamstring)
OF – Chris Pettit (labrum surgery)


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